My Policy on Grading and Other Student Matters
Prof. William Menke

You are welcome in my classrom irrespective of your age, race, geneder, sexual orientation, religion or lack thereof, and political views. I aspire to treat everyone fairly and respectfully, without any sort of stereotyping. I welcome diverse life experiences and points of view.

What students can expect of me. I make every effort to be fair in the grading of homework and exams. I try my very best to grade any set of exams or homework uniformly, with all students being rewarded equally for partially correct answers. I never let extraneous factors (such as a student's past performance, disagreemets between me and the student, etc.) influence grades.

What I expect of students. I expect students to make their best effort in both homework and exams, and that this effort include completeness, timeliness and clarity of presentation., in addition to correctness. I consider all four of these elements vital. In particular, I expect any answer to include enough explanation that I can have a good sense of the thought processes that underly it. I expect students to make their best effort to submit written material that is well-organized and clearly-written, and with attention given to grammar and spelling. Except when I indicate otherwise, I expect material to be typed (not handwritten) and submitted electronically (not in hardcopy)

My policy on collaboration on assignments. Students may collaborate without penalty on homeworks and labs, but not tests or term-papers, except when I specifically instruct otherwise, subject to the the following conditions: 1) the fact of the collabortion must be specifically identified on the assigment (e.g. with the phrase 'Alex Smith and I worked together on this homework'); 2) the effort any student contributes to an assignment may not drop beneath one-third of the total effort; 3) All written material must be in each student's own words and not verbadim (or close) copies of another's. Please note that copying without collaboration is not permitted. Students are warned that while a moderate degree of collaboration is usually helpful, excessive reliance on it can lead a student to overestimate his or her command of the material, and hence to lower exam scores.

My Policy on Illness and Family Problems. If you develop an illness, have a family emergency, or experience any other problem that affects your academic performance, please bring it to my attention in a timely manner and I will do what I can to accomodate you. I will usually grant a short and first-time 24-hour extension of an assignment without documentaion but will require a doctor's note or letter from the Dean for subsequent or longer forms of accomodations.

My Policy on Disabilities. I always work with the Columbia Disabilities Office and defer to their judgement in all matters concerning student disabilities.

Columbia's Policy on Religious Observance. I affirm Columbia's policy of respecting religious beliefs and, as much as possible, avoiding conflicts with religious holidays. Please bring such scheduling conflicts to my attention, and I will attempt to work out with you a suitable alternative means for satisfying the academic requirement involved.

My Policy on Grade Disputes. While I am happy to discuss with a student the reasons that I assigned him or her a specific grade on a specific homework or exam question, I will not, in general, change grades that I have assigned. I see this as a fairness issue; it is not fair to reassess one student's grade without reassessing everyone else's, and this is rarely either practical or desirable. Grades, especially for the essay-style questions that I prefer, are always to some degree relative. A given student's work is being rated relative to other students, past and present, who have answered the same or similar questions. Furthermore, the grade needs to be based on the work as submitted, not on a student's subsequent elaboration, interpretation or explanation of it.

An exception is when I've completely missed seeing some material, which happens, though rarely, and especially when students interleave answers to two separate exam questions, or write in unexpected places (e.g on the back of the exam booklet). If you've think that this has happened to you, by all means, point it out to me. I'll regrade it.

I have occasionally encountered the criticism that I have not understood a student's answer, and thus have graded it too low. My experience is, however, that these cases always involve answers that are so very poorly expressed as to be incomprehensible. In my opinion, to simply knowing the right answer is not enough to justify a good grade. A student must also be able to adequately express this knowledge.

Columbia's Policy on Confidentiality. Be aware that, as a Columbia employeee, I am required to report to my superiors certain kinds of information that a student discloses to me, even should the student request confidentiality. Examples of such information include, but are not limited to, allegations of discrimination and sexual misconduct.